Jul 21

boot_camp_logoSITE SURVEY – An Important Detail For Longer-Term (over a day) Emergency Communications Deployment


How and where you erect any operating, sleeping and cooking structures is very important. This also includes areas for erecting any antennas. This is why when you get to a location and decide upon a general area,  you first must do a site survey. This is especially true if your team does a full-scale tent deployment and not a deployment using existing free-standing buildings. One of the most important things to consider is: Will this emergency intensify, such as will there be additional rains or wind in the short-term future while you are deployed? Even if you do choose to use an existing building, you need to do site survey.

The Camp SiteThreat Assessment –

  • Will there be drainage for additional rains or will your operation be flooded out or will you have to sleep in soaked sleeping bags like I had to do once in the 1980s in the Virgin Islands because the team leader decided on the wrong area for placement of the communications team?
  • An existing building may become flooded or cut off from access or evacuation.
  • A road to any building may become a river that will flood out any building when you least expect it.
  • Always choose an area which is on higher ground than the surrounding plain and NOT near any stream or river or their associated flood plains. You can usually tell about where the flood plain is by observation. Along streams there will be what’s known as a “debris line”. On flat terrain, this could be hundreds of yards from the stream itself. This is the highest area that has been recently flooded. Stay FAR AWAY from any debris line, as the emergency you might be deploying for, will have greater flooding potential than the average heavy rain.
  • Areas near a dry creek bed should be avoided because a dry creek bed can be flash-flooded and you along with it. I have seen one of these creek beds flood out to a half-mile wide river in a matter of minutes. High winds can cause trees to come crashing down when already saturated roots give way so keep away from large trees. Yes, they may make handsome places to string up an antenna, but at what cost? Read the rest of this entry »
Jul 5

JUMP TEAM BOOT CAMP 2014 (April 4th-6th)
A maximum of 8 attendees only!  

4 Spots already taken..

This is a FREE course, With 200 page training manual written specifically for this class.

boot_camp_logoW2IK and The Bexar Operators Group (W5BOG) located in San Antonio, Texas, will sponsor their 6th annual “Jump Team Boot Camp” in 2014, commencing on April 4th (Friday AFTERNOON) and running through the 6th (Sunday AFTERNOON).

Our “Jump Boot Camp” will concentrate on the ways and means to get a “Jump Team” operational should there be a need to deploy far from your home and communicate in the aftermath of a disaster where nothing is standing.

Just like the other “Jump Team Boot Camps” we’ve taught, this will be an actual drive-and-operate operation and NOT a desktop drill. This is the “no BS, real deal” of emcomm training and is as close as it gets to an actual disaster. The only emcomm boot camp in the country!

You will get very dirty so bring extra clothes! You will test your personal limits.   You will leave with self-confidence in dealing with extreme emergency communications work.

ECs and AECs from any group are especially encouraged to attend so they can bring valuable information back to their group(s) and so they are aware of what any of their members will be facing when you ask them to deploy to an extreme disaster area.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 17

From: “Alex Garcia”
Sent: Sunday, March 17, 2013 10:33 PM
Subject: Texas Severe Weather Conference

Hello Everyone,

The Texas Severe Weather Conference, SkyWarn Training Session is coming up this Saturday at the University of the Incarnate Word.
Registration is required and is FREE. Sign up, if you haven’t
already done so, at www.texasstorms.org.

See you this Saturday.

Alex Garcia

Nov 3

Title: 13th Annual Skywarn Recognition Day
Location: Austin/San Antonio National Weather Service Office – New Braunfels Airport
Description: The 13th Annual Skywarn Recognition Day 2012 will be December 1st – 0001 – 2400 zulu time or November 30th 1800hrs to December 1st 1800 hrs local time!

The Austin/San Antonio National Weather Service Office is committed to participating in the event, as has been in past years!
Our station has consistently improved our standing each year utilizing VHF/UHF, HF, IRLP, Echolink and various Digital modes!

All Currently Licensed Amateur Radio Operators are invited to participate during this years event. One does not need to be Skywarn trained to participate, but it could be helpful should and activation occur!

During the 24 hour event, we schedule up to 3 operators per 2 hour block of time to operate the station.

The best time slots fill up fast, although, some of the hottest activity has been from midnite local to 0400,  so if you would like to participate, please contact Louis Upton – K5STX @ k5stx@yahoo.com to reserve a slot.

Yes, you may volunteer to operate for more than one 2 hour time slot, and many operators usually do!

Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 30

In view of the terrible plight involving Hurricane Sandy, I think everyone needs to read an article I posted in one of my web sites several years ago. Emergency communicators – take heed.

Sometimes Getting There Can Be Your Greatest Problem

Bob Hejl W2IK

So, you’ve joined some emergency support group, taken some training and even done a few drills. That’s great! Your equipment is ready. You’re ready. But, “Murphy” has other ideas. Whether you’re a member of ARES, RACES, SATERN, REACT, CERT or any other group, you need to do more homework than what they’ve suggested. What good is all your equipment, training and confidence if you can’t get to a deployment site? Unfortunately, I’ve never seen any group adequately cover one of the most important steps in emergency communications: Getting volunteers to their final destinations as quickly and as safely as possible. Although this is especially true during natural disasters such as winter storms, hurricanes or intense periods of rain which produce almost catastrophic flooding, it can also encompass volunteers who attempt to deploy during other events such as wildfire emergencies. Can you imagine deploying to a wildfire disaster and almost getting trapped by the flames because no one told you the extent or the range of the fire? Well, it happened to me when I, with others, attempted to deploy during the Long Island wildfires a number of years ago. We were armed with everything we thought we needed…. except up-to-date information. No maps or directions were given so there we were “driving by the seat of our pants” in the dead of the night into what almost was a catastrophe for us all. Luckily, we back tracked and took the long way around finally reaching our deployment points.

Everyone was to blame for this screw-up.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jul 9

South Central Texas Partners…

The National Weather Service Austin-San Antonio TX office is now officially on Twitter.  Our first official tweet came out this morning, Monday, July 9th.  Like anything new we will have some growing pains as we take on this social media giant.

Follow us @NWSSanAntonio

As of right now our Twitter page is not set up to be a “warning” tool.  That may change in the future…but as of right now we will be placing graphics, outlooks, and links that you will hopefully find interesting and useful.  We are also looking to  utilize twitter for getting storm reports, damage pix, etc.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 13

Title: 13th Annual Skywarn Recognition Day
Location: Austin/San Antonio National Weather Service Office – New Braunfels Airport
Description: The Austin/San Antonio National Weather Service Office will be participating in the 2011 Skywarn Recognition Day, which will occur from 1800hrs 2 December 2011 to 1800hrs 3 December 2011.

Our station will again be operating for the entire 24 hours time period, utilizing 2m, 440, multiple HF bands, as well as Echolink and IRLP contacts.

This is the 13th year for the program, and I believe will be the 9th year this station has participated. Each year, our station, thanks to the dedication and perseverance of many dedicated hams from throughout the South Central Texas area, has improved on its contact status, and rating in the Skywarn Recognition Day program.

All Licensed Amateur Radio Operators are invited to participate in this fun event.  Yes, Technician class licensees are encouraged to participate, as we do utilize 2m, 440 and the digital modes!

We schedule operators in 2 hours blocks of time, with a maximum of 3 operators per block! Of course, if you choose to, you may request scheduling for multiple blocks, either consecutive or broken. Such as one evening shift and one early morning shift.

Due to limited security, space, and the fact the NWS staff is still operating, we can only have 3 operators, and try to keep the noise level to a minimum. Although, many members of the staff enjoy hearing the goings on, when things are not busy on their end. We have had severe weather events occur, during the SRD.

Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 31

“National Guard Helicopters drop supplies to support towns completely cut off due to Hurricane Irene” “No power, phone or roads to towns hard hit by Hurricane Irene”

I’m sure you’ve seen the videos of cars being swept down swollen rivers in Vermont. Who would have ever thought that a coastal hurricane would dump so much water over land-locked Vermont to cause such devastation! This reminds me of the time back in the late 1990’s when I was dropped along with supplies in to a town in upstate New York to supply emergency communications during the North East Ice Storm. It’s just another reminder that emergency communications teams must be prepared for any event. This is also a glaring reminder that we need well-trained “Jump Teams” in every area to assist with emergency communications support. EVERY local emergency communications group needs to have a Jump Team on hand to help cope with this type of disaster. Just as it happened in Vermont, it could happen in Texas. Towns being cut off. No power. No communications.

 If you don’t know how to start a Jump Team, or what your team would need, just go to this website for information and support: http://www.texasmars.com/

 Bob W2IK

Jun 7
   With the start of Summer, June 1st marks the beginning of “Hurricane Season”. It’s been predicted to be a very active period. We hope a hurricane doesn’t strike our area, but we must be ready in case it does.Many newly licensed hams have joined the amateur radio ranks just in time to become useful communicators should an emergency caused by severe weather arise. There is always a need for trained emergency communications personnel, but this is especially true in the areas which are more likely to be impacted by a hurricane, those regions being the Atlantic and Gulf Coast areas. However, it takes more than just a license and a hand-held radio to make you a useful part of emergency communications. It also takes preparation, training and practice.

Preparation requires each communicator to develop a cache of supplies to help them in fulfilling their communications duties.

There are various websites you can rely on as basic lists in building your “go bag” of supplies. I realize that most of you are on limited budgets regarding the purchase of additional rigs or other related equipment, so improve on what you have with the addition of a better antenna system and upgraded power sources. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to “run home” to get something you’ve forgotten.

There are NO second chances with emergency communications during a hurricane.

 Reminders –

If by choice or by wallet your only rig is an HT: The battery pack that came with your HT is NOT enough during a deployment. Make sure you have additional power in the form of extra batteries and a power supply. You should have enough “portable power” to last for at least 4 days of operation.
The “rubber duck” antenna that came with your HT won’t do much good during an emergency. In terms of Effective Radiated Power (ERP) a 5 watt HT with it’s standard rubber duck antenna at shoulder height actually radiates only 1.5 watts ERP. (The stock antenna that came with your HT is what’s known as a “negative gain antenna”) Clipping the same HT on your belt would attenuate the signal an additional 20 db, meaning the ERP would only be about 15 MILLIWATTS!  This is why you need a “gain” antenna at a decent height for emergency communications deployment. You should have a 17 inch flexible whip antenna and at the very least a roll-up “J Pole” antenna with coax. If you are really serious, you’ll need an emergency VHF antenna.  This is a very light weight, portable antenna that is packaged in a 48 inch tube yet deploys to a height of over 16 feet. It is easy to build. It exhibits gain. It can be used with an HT to greatly expand it’s range and can also be used with a mobile rig for indoor or outdoor use.
Always document what you do. Keep accurate notes and communications, marking times of each. This will help in reviewing later.
You’ll also need to refresh yourself on the basics of emergency communications. The better armed you are with information and the basic proper gear, the better you’ll be able to do your communications task.

Time to test and inspect all your equipment. Replace weak re-chargable batteries and check out all cables for wear or fraying. Make some test transmissions to see how well your equipment will “hit” the various local repeaters that are used during emergencies and put them in your radio’s memory bank. Perhaps it’s time to buy that deep-cycle marine battery as you might need it to power your mobile rig indoors during a power failure. (Don’t forget that emergency VHF antenna system as mentioned above)

Hopefully you are a member of some emergency communications group in your area. Time to attend meetings and on-air lessons in earnest. Ask questions no matter how trivial you think they are because others will probably benefit from the answers. If your group is smart, they’ll have a small drill or two. Keep your group updated on any new gear (radios, antennas, etc) which would make your deployment more valuable to your team.

Keep on your toes when a developing storm starts it’s march across the Atlantic. Follow the path and look at projected paths at: WEATHER UNDERGROUND website. It’s a good source of info during hurricane season.

PREPARE your family for the hurricane season.  Train your family members and build a “home bag” so they won’t have to do without should severe weather occur in your area.

Make sure that if a hurricane is within 300 miles of your home that you keep all your vehicles’ gas tanks “topped off” and buy extra, extra batteries for any flashlights used by your family. At the same time, be sure to monitor your EmComm group’s repeater frequency for updates or possible “call outs”. Make sure that you also have “wide-range” repeater frequencies in you rig’s memory. If you have a General or above license, try to have a working, portable HF station which also includes an NVIS antenna system for reliable short-range HF communications.

Keep every battery charged and have all equipment gathered and ready.

Be an active member in your EmComm groups activities so you can all be “on the same page”. Hopefully, your emergency communications group has in place an honest, comprehensive emergency plan for it’s operators and has trained it’s members with something more than “table-top” drills. FIELD DAY IS NOT ENOUGH.

Nov 23

Due to lack of response, W2IK and the Bexar Operators Group (W5BOG) have decided to cancel the 2011 Jump Team Boot Camp  for emergency communicators. It takes a great deal of lead time and planning to run this program, reserve the wildlife refuge area, line up the two Army survival specialists, check out several tons of jump team gear, etc. With no inquiries, usually by now the reservation list would be almost full, we can only assume no one feels this training is needed so we will also retire from offering it in the future.

Bob  W2IK


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